David Jester: Freedom Wears a Black Hood

Cold steel grasps his wrists, abrading his skin. Concentric circles of blood and jagged flesh appear as he squirms in cuffs which feel three sizes too small. Convinced his bones will splinter and shatter, like porcelain under the pressure from these restraints, the contortion of his hands seem humanly impossible, as they twist and bend back.

His face rests on the rough pavement and he smells tar in the asphalt on this hot summer day. Gravel and sand rub his face raw as he lies there, moving, squirming, while knowing he should not. A red, uneven, pocked friction burn begins to form on his cheek, as if his head is held to a belt sander with 50 grit.

A new pain washes over his body. A pressure builds and forces his chest down, suffocating, prohibiting ribs from expansion and contraction. A knee presses into his spine. Vertebrae contort. Disks bulge and herniate under the full weight. His spine is white hot with searing pain, and all the while he can hear his back creaking like boards on a ship to sea.

He knows he should not speak, that it will make things worse, but the pain is too much to bear. He has to do something. Has to plead or beg. Maybe the officer will listen to reason, he thinks, although he knows it will do no good.

“Why are you doing this?” he says, choking back sobs.

“Sir, please cooperate.”

Although he cannot see the face of the man, his voice says it all. No emotion, no inflection, frigid and stony. Authoritarian.

“But I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything! Please you’re breaking my wrists! Please! I can’t take it!”

“Sir, if you do not comply we will be forced to taze you.”

Pain continues to creep over his body like waves of the ocean lapping at the shore. Hot knives cut through his spinal cord, muscles pull at their fibers, cold hard steel shreds his wrists. Through all of this he thinks, “Comply, how am I not complying? What did I even do?”

He scrambles through his mind, trying to find reason for all this. Why was he being held captive?  What did he do to incur this wrath? Of what crime was he guilty? He is clueless. No answer comes to him, only an inferno of nerve endings firing to pain receptors.

Time has slowed down to a crawl. Pain makes the second hand move as if its gears are stuck. Every sensation is felt and amplified a hundred times over.

The pavement feels moist against his face now, but that is only his skin chafed and gone, in its place red raw flesh left oozing into the sand and dirt. He is convinced his spine will snap, his wrists will shatter, and his face will be nothing but a bloody pulp.

And then. Snap. A brittle crunch in his hand. Bone grinds against bone. He hears it as if his hand is pressed against his ear, and feels it as if no other pain matters now.

“It hurts! Officer, it hurts. It really hurts. I think you…..”

“I told you to comply or I will be forced to taze you. Please comply.”

How can one comply? Hasn’t lying on the ground been enough compliance?  How can one make brittle bone comply with unnatural bends and movements?

Overwhelming pain takes over and he can no longer help himself, the pain has taken him and compliance is no longer an option. Instinct. His body searches for the smallest relief from the agony that rages. He writhes and bucks against the weight pressed upon him. He tries to find comfort, but none is found. He goes to speak and finds his voice cracking at every word spoken.

“I think it’s broke!  My hand, my wrist! Please, please! I will comply! I will comply! I am complying, please!”

“Sir. Please do not raise your voice at me. That is an act of aggression. I warned you to comply and now you threaten me in this way.  Officers back away, back away, back away!”

Black uniforms leave the crumpled heap on the ground, backing away from the shaking mess that once resembled a man. No knee in his back, no hands grabbing his wrist, twisting them in all directions, he finds a tiny modicum of relief from the pain, but it is temporary.

A pop fills the air and a sting like two wasps plunging their stingers into his flesh begins this new torture.  Two sharpened steel barbs stick out of his back. Thin translucent filament line traces from them, like a large fish hooked and landed.  A clicking sound fills the air and then it happens. His body clenches tight, curling into the fetal position. The sound of teeth grinding can be heard over the clicking, he is sure they will shatter in his mouth from the force of his jaw clenching. It only lasts for five seconds, but it feels like an eternity.

Thousands upon thousands of fists pounding on every muscle of his body attack his whole being.  He is helpless to this lash of pain and has no choice but to endure. He cannot scream, cannot move, he is frozen in place. This new horror controls him with utter disregard for his wants.

The fury subsides and he remains motionless, his body exhausted, his muscles and spirit spent. Voices fade in and out around him. Unable to concentrate, he lies there and closes his eyes, wishing it would all end.

Nothing, no movement, no voices, no pain.  He wonders if he is dead, and this is how it feels to pass the river Styx. He opens his eyes to see the asphalt, the curb, the black uniforms, and he knows he is not dead, or if he is, then this is hell.

Uniforms, like black monoliths move toward him at slow speed. They grab him by his arms.  His wrists crunch. He grits his teeth.  His mind is no longer in control, fear takes over and he begins to scream now, garbled from the blood flowing into his throat.

“Foolish, stupid body,” he thinks, “if only it would cooperate, if only it would stop feeling pain, stop trying to get me to scream, then this wouldn’t be so bad. Then I wouldn’t have been tazed, then maybe I would have been able to comply.”

They hold him up, his body hovering over the pavement as large hands grasp his limbs suspending him feet above the ground.  Finally one of the black uniforms speaks.

“Drop to your knees.”

He is released and dropped to the street with a sudden and unexpected pain. Kneecaps press into the gritty asphalt as they collide with the hard rough surface. It sounds like hollow coconuts dropped from the second floor of a building as they strike pavement.

His face is raw hamburger. His wrists are contorted in the opposite ways joints move. His crotch is a dark spot of urine. He is a sight to pity. But no one pities, no one looks at him. Those pedestrians on the sidewalk continue by without a glance, all quicken their pace to pass by. No one questions their authority. Cellphones remain in pockets, rather than recording the events. No help, no pity, no witnesses at all. Rights only work if those in power are willing to protect them.

A black hood is placed over his head. Little light seeps through the tightly woven fabric, the scratchiness of it causes an insatiable itch on the whole of his face.  The friction burn on his cheek begins to get hot and irritated as the cloth sticks to the moist chewed-up skin.

A strong voice, large and proud, fills the air.  It is mechanical, bereft of inflection or emotion, yet still human.  It is a memorized recited oration, line for line doled as if practiced hundreds of times before.

“You will be tried for your crime.  You will be found guilty for your crime.  You are allowed a lawyer if you would like, but then your lawyer will be found guilty for aiding and abetting a criminal.”

The speech fills his head and rings throughout.  It’s hard tone beats at his skull filling him with fear. He is afraid to ask, afraid of non-compliance, but he must ask, he must know.

“What crime am I guilty of?”

“You thought when you should not have thought. You spoke when you should not have spoken. You were free when no one is free.”

These words sunk in. He took a minute and turned his head in the direction he thought the voice came from.

“Then that is it.”

“That is it.”

Hands clasp around his arms as he is dragged to a car. Landing headfirst upon the cracked vinyl back seat, he rights himself and faces the direction from which he was thrown in.  He pushes all pain down and takes a second to collect himself, and then puts his foot against the door before it is closed.

“I don’t blame you, I blame the system,” he says.

“Thank you for that, sir. I still blame you.”

In the darkness of that hood, his right’s fade away, lost to a world where speech is only protected for the majority in power. Tyranny ascends to supremacy, masked under the guise of democracy.

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